Remember when you went on a great first date with someone and, after you went home for the night, the essence of them lingered on your skin, in your aural and visual memory -- you'd call back his voice, his features, his beard -- all of this in your imagination?
The way he drank his beer. The way he reached for you, for a moment, and then thought twice, chickening out. How you'd caught that. How you'd also caught that sideways comment he made about his mother. A red flag? You weren't sure. Then there was the way he hopped off his bar stool, it seemed to say something about the way he lived his life, about his work, this new page he talked about turning. And was that an old ankle injury? What was the story there?
And you went on like this, post-date, your mind trying to re-build the person you sat across from at dinner; fill in the gaps. You had a bunch of clay now, in your head, and the next day was made for sculpting.
The next day, you sat with this clay for a while, wondering, construing -- thinking-up storms. Sometimes the person did not stick. They slid right off your slate and you started again, from scratch, with someone new. But, sometimes, you lingered with the clay.
You pictured brushing your hand across his beard, and suddenly the bristles would become clear. Sometimes, when that first date was really good, you imagined or remembered yourself in bed, and then embedded -- two different things, but things that sometimes, if you were lucky, grew one from the other.
Until the next time you saw each other, when more clay would be added to the slate. And all the while, in between each fill, tension would build, desire would mount, hope would make a nest. Sometimes you would move fast, other times slow, it was up to you -- your hands, how good you each were with the clay.
We don't do that anymore, we don't take the time to imagine one another. We don't give ourselves the opportunity to truly consider each other. We leave a date and we get back online, check out what other hook there might be waiting for us on Tinder; what other wheel might be rolling out there on Hinge.
We ease our loneliness with oceans of possibility and, along the way, we forget how to build a hopeful nest.
About a year ago, I got a divorce and re-entered the world of dating after ten years. I've always sought what I wanted in my life, and I wasn't about to have my love life be any different. I wasn't going to sit around, twiddling my thumbs, praying and hoping, until some guy tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to dance, peeling me away from some ancient ideal of femininity or womanhood.
In the language of dating: I'm an Aries, I'm a fire sign; I went for it. With gusto. Daily, I was taking in the lives of others. As a writer, this is always fascinating.
What I gained from apps like Tinder was a world of knowledge and, yes, I'll admit, a whole lot of fun, at times, too.
But, what I discovered pretty quickly was that dating apps were as much about possibility and adventure, as they were about fear and insecurity. They were a swell of freedom, but they were also a trap.
These apps brought with them the illusion that if someone hurt you, even just for a moment, you could always find someone else. After all someone else was only a thumb flick away.
So now, with this set up, what do you do after a great first date?
You leave smiling, you're human, his kiss sits with you, and you think about him on the car ride home, but then a little bubble pops up on Tinder. Somebody likes you. And you, without thinking, check it.
And the guy you just went out with is doing the same exact thing.
And you know he is doing the same exact thing because Tinder lets you know that he's checked into his account too. Even as of you are both texting each other goodnight, telling each other what a wonderful time you had, both of you looking for... More. Right now. Because there's that illusion again -- that you can have whatever you want, whenever you want.
And now, even if you do go on another date, there is that thorn of resentment that has already pricked you: You were not good enough. He was not good enough. Nothing will ever be good enough.
What might have happened if you had decided to leave your phone alone for the night? Gone home to memory and clay instead of flipping through infinite pictures of men with their abs out for show and tell? And what if he had done the same? You had a great date -- Why did you need more, right that second? What were you trying so desperately to fill?
Sometimes with more, comes less. We lose essence, which is greater than a million surface shots. We lose the time it takes to imagine another person at the intersection of two lives. We lose, in other words, the beginning of everything. We don't plant seeds, sow and water. We do not cultivate. We pluck and pillage and move on to a new field when we've left the last one barren.
When Cupid's arrows turn to Tinder hooks, do dating and love lose their patience? Become compulsive? Does love start to look more like war?
Maybe it's always been like this. Maybe the two, love and war, have always been entwined. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be thinking about Tinder nostalgically. Maybe love has always had to be grand to really strike. Otherwise, it's just another swipe. Or maybe love, like life, is changing. Maybe it has to be stronger than ever to survive.